For the first time in school history, three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph — were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Thompson was chosen at No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-foot-9 power forward, who left after his freshman season, was the third-highest player drafted in school history, behind Kevin Durant (No. 2 in 2007 to Seattle) and LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2 in 2006 to Chicago).
“We’re very excited for Tristan and his family,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly.”
In one year at Texas, Thompson scored 13 points a game and averaged 7.8 rebounds as well. He will team up with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick of the 2011 Draft, to usher in a new era of basketball in Cleveland, a franchise still reeling after the departure of LeBron James last summer.
This marks another connection between the Cavaliers and the Longhorns. Chris Mihm played three years in Cleveland, and former point guard Daniel Gibson has been on the team since being drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft.
It was a harder night for Hamilton, who slipped past a preferred lottery destination, and then past the top 20 before finally having his name called by the Dallas Mavericks at No. 26. Then, he was traded to Portland, where Aldridge currently plays, for Rudy Fernandez. Finally, the Trailblazers sent him to Denver.
When asked why he thought he dropped so low in the draft, Hamilton told NBA reporter Chris Tomasson that he heard that Barnes had warned NBA teams that the small forward was “uncoachable.”
But in Barnes’ post-draft statement, he was very complimentary of the growth Hamilton underwent between his freshman and sophomore seasons in Austin.
“I will always respect Jordan for the way he honestly sat down and evaluated himself after his freshman season here,” he said. “He realized there was a lot he needed to learn…He has matured so much, not only in basketball, but as a man.”
In his second and final year as a Longhorn, Hamilton led the team in scoring with 19 points per game and was a third team All-American.
The feel-good story of the night may have belonged to Joseph. Not expected to be picked in the first round, nearby San Antonio snatched him with the No. 29 overall pick in one of the bigger surprises of the draft.
“Cory is a player who, as a coach, you really enjoy being around,” Barnes said. “He simply loves to be in the gym and compete.”
With the Spurs sending backup point guard George Hill to Indiana, Joseph projects to fill that role. He started all 36 games this season for Texas at shooting guard. He led the team in steals, assists, three-point field percentage and minutes played.
“He does all the little things that help a team,” Barnes said.